BackTable / VI / Podcast / Episode #351
Discussing the Recent NYT Article
with Dr. Frank Arko and Dr. Saher Sabri
In this episode, host Dr. Ally Baheti interviews interventional radiologist Dr. Saher Sabri and vascular surgeon Dr. Frank Arko about their perspectives on a July 2023 New York Times article about the ethics of peripheral arterial disease (PAD) treatment in outpatient based labs (OBLs) and ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs).
BackTable, LLC (Producer). (2023, August 2). Ep. 351 – Discussing the Recent NYT Article [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from https://www.backtable.com
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Dr. Frank Arko
Dr. Frank Arko is a practicing Vascular Surgeon and the Chief of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery at Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Dr. Saher Sabri
Dr. Saher Sabri is a practicing Interventional Radiologist at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington DC.
Dr. Aparna Baheti
Dr. Aparna Baheti is a practicing Interventional Radiologist in Tacoma, Washington.
Dr. Arko emphasizes the importance of approaching articles as an unbiased reader. He acknowledges that sensationalism in the news is common, and while bad actors do exist, he personally knows talented OBL/ASC practitioners. He also notes that the article fails to mention that the majority of these practitioners follow society guidelines to provide appropriate and effective treatment for their patients, rather than prioritizing financial gain. He believes that most non-surgical specialists have the clinical insight to know when patients would be better candidates for open bypasses as opposed to endovascular interventions. Dr. Arko describes the split response to the article within vascular surgeons on social media, based on their personal philosophies of open versus endovascular interventions for PAD.
Dr. Sabri believes that PAD and critical limb-threatening ischemia (CLTI) are not very well known by the general public, this article was a missed opportunity to bring attention to these conditions and disparities in treatments depending on patients’ geographic locations and ethnicities. The article may have the effect of scaring patients away from seeking treatment for PAD and CLTI, as well as receiving care at OBLs, which were originally founded to make interventions more efficient and patient-friendly. Additionally, the article could foster divisiveness between vascular surgeons, interventional radiologists, and interventional cardiologists and as a result, increase barriers to collaboration.
It is important to differentiate between PAD and CLTI and the stage at which patients present to medical care. Limb salvage rates and decisions to intervene and/or amputate are multifactorial and are not as straightforward as the article may imply. Both doctors agree that specialty societies share the responsibility of monitoring their members for overuse of interventions.
In terms of rebates and volume discounts from device companies, the doctors discuss the ethics of cost savings that benefit a hospital system versus savings that benefit a physician-owned OBL. Dr. Arko recognizes that financing an OBL with device company partnerships can be a smart business decision if devices are used appropriately and only when indicated. He speaks about the need for societies to support more randomized control trials that compare the effectiveness of each atherectomy device. We also discuss implications for insurance coverage of PAD/CLTI interventions. Dr. Sabri believes that it is unfortunate when insurance companies become the decision-maker of patient treatments.
“They Lost Their Legs. Doctors and Health Giants Profited” (NY Times, July 2023 article):
“Blocked Artery in Your Leg? Here’s What You Should Know” (ProPublica, June 2023 article)
Outpatient Endovascular Interventional Society (OEIS):
Society of Vascular Surgery (SVS) Position Statement:
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